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Azize-Vargas, Y, and L A Avilés. “Abortion in Puerto Rico: The Limits of a Colonial Legality.” Puerto Rico Health Sciences Journal 17, no. 1 (March 1998): 27–36.


Authors Yamila Azize-Vargas and Luis Aviles explore how the notorious ruling in Roe v. Wade, extended to Puerto Rico. The implementation of Roe in Puerto Rico proved to be problematic on two fronts:  those who were serious opponents of U.S. colonialism viewed the decision as a gross example of the U.S. imposing its beliefs and policies onto Puerto Rico further highlighting Puerto Rico’s subordinate status. Secondly, the ruling angered health and government officials. Although, there was serious opposition to the ruling, it was reaffirmed in two court cases resulting in one of the most liberal abortion policies in the world. However, Puerto Rico has one of the lowest rates of abortion. The authors cite high rates of sterilization and contraceptive use, lack of official support or information, belief that abortion is still illegal, cost of abortion, limited number of providers, unequal distribution of services, and limited access to second trimester abortions as reasons for the low rate of abortions in Puerto Rico. This article effectively captures the intersection of colonialism, policy, and abortion rights/access. The authors transition very well from discussing the historical context of abortion in Puerto Rico citing the legalization of abortion via jure ex colonia and moving toward a discussion about the limitations and access issues that Puerto Rican women face. This article is recommended for anyone interested in colonialism and the effects it has on laws and policies and how they interact with the colony’s existing beliefs and cultural practices. It is also recommended for an audience interested in foreign abortion laws and how the law on the books differs from law in practice and the ways in which women face cumbersome barriers to achieving their reproductive rights.


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Legislation/policy   Legal case   Intersectionality   Abortion